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Law’s scouting notes: Latest on Blue Jays’ Ricky Tiedemann, Yankees’ Anthony Volpe and more

The Blue Jays took juco lefty Ricky Tiedemann with their third-round pick in the 2021 draft, their second selection because they lost their second-round pick for signing George Springer. Tiedemann went undrafted out of high school in 2020, went to Golden West College to try to improve his standing, and fared somewhat better. But it was only after signing that his velocity started to take off, as he would sit in the upper 90s in two-to-three-inning stints with a power slider.

Since a mid-July promotion to Double A, Tiedemann has worked in three-inning stints as the Jays try to manage his workload – and, I think, perhaps to help him deal with some fatigue. He threw three quick innings on Friday night at Somerset, but his stuff was down and his command was way off. Tiedemann topped out at 96 mph and was mostly 93-94 mph with a huge, sweepy slider at 78-81 mph that hitters couldn’t touch, as well as an 82-84 mph changeup that’s an above-average pitch when he finishes it properly, although he had several that got away from him. He threw 39 pitches, just 21 for strikes, and the Somerset hitters offered at several of those that weren’t actually near the strike zone.

Tiedemann’s delivery is rough for a starter. He starts on the extreme first base side of the rubber, and finishes on that same side of the mound, with a slightly low 3/4 slot that gives him great angle to the slider and makes him very tough for left-handed hitters to pick up, but that all makes it hard for him to locate his fastball to his glove side. He can sweep that slider down and in to righties and get a ton of chases there even from big-league right-handed hitters, but they’ll also be able to creep up on the plate because he’s not going to get the fastball or change to the inner third against them.

If Tiedemann’s velocity is down just because it’s been a long season for him, and he’ll get back to 97-plus next year, then this is top-of-the-rotation stuff, with three pitches you could comfortably grade as 55 (above-average) or better. The delivery works against him though, in control and command. His whole package on Friday reminded me a lot of when I saw Andrew Miller as an amateur, another lefty with a slightly lower slot and a wipeout slider that killed left- and right-handed hitters. Miller ended up in relief for a few reasons, but one major one was that he couldn’t land the slider for strikes enough to adjust when better hitters started laying off of it. I’m not consigning Tiedemann to the bullpen in the future, but I would like to see what happens if the Jays moved him more to the center of the rubber so he could utilize the whole strike zone.

Orelvis Martinez set a New Hampshire club record this year with 28 homers, but it has come at a cost – the 20-year-old shortstop has a .277 OBP, and even that is boosted by 10 HBP. He’s a lot like Javy Báez was at that age … or, now, I guess … in that he has no apparent plan at the plate, and several times in the two games I saw it appeared that he’d decided whether to swing before the pitcher even released the ball. He swung at the first pitch three times in four plate appearances on Tuesday, putting it in play twice; and then did so twice in five plate appearances on Friday, along with a 3-0 hack where he grounded out on what I think was ball four. As I write this, he is 0 for 16 in the series against Somerset, with seven strikeouts and one walk, which came on five pitches with four nowhere near the zone. If you’re looking for a positive, though, he was better at shortstop than I expected (in one game, moving to DH in the second), with at least a 60 arm.

Addison Barger was Toronto’s sixth-round pick back in 2018, signing for just $271,000 despite a commitment to the University of Florida, and he’s been one of the Jays’ biggest breakout prospects this year with a .304/.369/.546 line between High A and Double A, including 21 homers. He’s gotten much stronger over the last year-plus, and the power is legit, at least against right-handed pitchers (he has 19 of his homers off right-handed pitchers). He’s not a shortstop, but could probably fill in there as a backup, and is most likely a strong utility infielder with some chance he could develop into a starter at third or second, or at least the heavy side of a platoon at either spot.

• Right-hander Adam Kloffenstein was the Jays’ third-round pick in 2018, receiving an over-slot bonus just under $2.5 million. The high school teammate of now-traded first-rounder Jordan Groshans, Kloffenstein has seen his stuff back up so much that at this point I don’t think he’s a prospect even as a reliever. He’s down to 90-91 mph without life or movement on the pitch, and has a fringy slider in the mid-80s, which explains his 6-plus ERA in Double A this year.

Anthony Volpe (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports)

• Somerset’s top four hitters are all among the Yanks’ better prospects, highlighted by the best prospect in the system, Anthony Volpe, who seemed to do it all in the two games I caught this week – including accounting for two of Somerset’s three hits on Friday, and their only run thanks to an opposite-field homer on a slider down and away. He’s a plus runner, a plus defender, has 60 power and always seems to be in the right place to make a play. I did see him swing under some fastballs up in the zone, which is the only thing I could possibly call a weakness in his game at the moment. After a rough first two months that had him barely hitting .200 at the end of May, he’s hitting .284/.378/.535 since the start of June.

Austin Wells, the Yanks’ first-rounder in 2020, can hit some, but he can not catch at all, and they’re going to have to make a decision on his position at some point in the near future. He has maybe a 30 arm, although it plays a little better than that because the Yankees have improved his release; and he struggles with receiving and blocking. He missed time earlier this year with a groin injury that stemmed from his inability to catch or block a foul tip. None of this is a surprise, as amateur scouts were nearly unanimous in agreeing he wasn’t going to remain a catcher in pro ball, but it does put more pressure on his bat. He’s hitting .248/.341/.423 so far in 38 games in Double A; at age 22, probably not where he needs to be if he’s a DH, although I saw a solid approach and plus power from him. He’s close enough to the majors that I think continuing to catch him is a mistake – just put him in left or at first and tell him to worry about hitting.

Everson Pereira was the Yanks’ eighth-best prospect this past offseason, but was my sleeper pick for the system, since he’s always had the tools to be a top 50 guy but has had injury after injury since he first signed in 2017 for $1.5 million. He’s been healthy all year, hitting well enough in High-A Hudson Valley to reach Double A at age 21, and the tools are largely still there – he’s got great bat speed, above-average power and running speed, and at least the athleticism to handle center. His approach is just fair right now; he’s not getting fooled badly, but he’s also going after some pitcher’s pitches, and in two games I didn’t see hard contact, which I think is tied to when he’s choosing to swing. He hit a soft popup to left on a 3-0 pitch, which is just one pitch but really that’s the situation you’d expect a guy to unload, and the rest of his at-bats ended in soft to medium-hit groundballs. That said, he’s got above-average upside, and is so young and inexperienced (I saw his 202nd career game on Friday) that I think he’s a back-of-the-top 100 guy already.

• Outfielder Elijah Dunham is a great story, drafted by Pittsburgh in 2019, declining to sign with the Pirates only to have the pandemic ruin his last year at Indiana, leading him to go undrafted in 2020. He signed with the Yankees as a free agent that summer and is now hitting .259/.356/.468 as a 24-year-old in Double A, showing strong contact skills, plus power and great feel for baserunning. He crushed several mistake pitches in the two games I saw, and he covered quite a bit of ground in right field. He doesn’t pick up lefties well, though, and might be a platoon guy in a corner rather than a regular. I do think he’s a big leaguer, and a useful one, even though he’s probably not an everyday guy.

• Right-hander Randy Vasquez was the Yankees’ 14th prospect coming into the season and has continued to improve this year as a starter in Double A. He was 92-95 mph on Friday night, matching up with Tiedemann, and showed an above-average changeup and long, sweepy slider that he could manipulate well, going down and in to lefties, down and away to get righties to chase, or even coming in with a shorter version to strike out a right-handed batter. His delivery is very high-effort and he comes from the extreme third base side of the rubber, cutting himself off in his landing, so like Tiedemann, he doesn’t get his fastball or changeup well to the other side of the plate. He punched out 9-of-19 batters on Friday, though, and has a chance for three above-average pitches himself. If he had more size to him, I’d feel better about him starting, but he’s listed at six-foot, 165 pounds, and with the effort in the delivery and lack of present command, he’s maybe 60/40 to end up a good reliever instead of a starter.

• Yankees right-hander Will Warren started on Tuesday and showed premium stuff that should make him a valuable reliever, but his delivery and lack of command give him virtually no chance to stay a starter. Warren was 91-94 mph with two distinct breaking balls, both of which could show plus, including a hammer curveball that he used more to lefties than his too-firm changeup. It’s a high-effort delivery with some head-whack and a stiff landing, so the command is unlikely to get better, but I think the fastball will be more 93-95 mph (if not more) in relief and he’ll have multiple weapons to get guys out when he’s only going through an order one time.

Jackson Holliday (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports)

• On Thursday night, I caught Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday’s first game for Low-A Delmarva, which came after a successful romp through the GCL. The first pick in this year’s draft, Holliday has a gorgeous left-handed swing and showed it on a ground rule double to dead center off a right-handed reliever, while also getting caught looking twice in the game, once on a fastball middle-away and once on a pitch I thought was below the zone. He did have one miscue in the field, as he went back on a pop-up into short centerfield and didn’t cede the play to centerfielder Dylan Beavers soon enough; Beavers dropped what would have been the game-ending out, and that run ended up scoring. Delmarva lost the game in the 10th, so it was the worst possible outcome. I’m going to guess that Holliday always made those plays for his high school team, and this may have been just a function of inexperience, and perhaps Beavers waiting too long to call for the play himself.

• Baltimore took Dylan Beavers, a centerfielder from Cal, with its second pick, a competitive balance selection — strong value for a player who was rumored to be in play in the first round. Beavers had a slight hitch in his swing in the spring, but that wasn’t there when I saw him on Thursday for Delmarva. He showed bat speed, but instead was jumping out of his stance early, and punched out twice on pitches he should have laid off. He did double once off the right-field wall despite a late swing where it looked like he didn’t get all of the ball, so there’s clearly some power here.

Jud Fabian was the Orioles’ third pick (second round) this year, and was the beneficiary of some very bad pitching on Thursday, as Lynchburg starter Ryan Webb, a left-hander coming back from injury, couldn’t throw a strike – he walked six-of-12 batters he faced, and two of those walks were to Fabian, a right-handed hitter. After that, Fabian struggled against a couple of right-handed relievers before getting a fastball down the middle where he could show his plus power, driving a very hard-hit single the other way. His stats in pro ball have been superb, but the University of Florida product, who has four years of college under his belt, needs to do this against better pitching.

• Infielder Carter Young was a surprise signing for Baltimore in the draft this year, as the Vanderbilt shortstop, who had Day 1 potential coming into the spring, was undrafted until Day 3. Baltimore took him in the 17th round and signed him despite a .207/.327/.383 line for the Commodores and 29 percent strikeout rate. Young is athletic and has some bat speed, but the switch-hitter couldn’t make anything more than soft contact on Thursday, with a couple of groundballs and a soft line drive single. I imagine he’s a development project for Baltimore, as he had two unproductive years for Vanderbilt and needs swing and approach help to convert his tools into some sort of value.

Cleveland took Cuban-born shortstop Yordys Valdes in the second round in 2020, but he’s repeating Low A now and still isn’t hitting at all. He’s at least a 60 defender at short, and he has some contact skills, but he doesn’t hit anything hard and his pitch selection needs work.

• The Guardians took Jake Fox in the third round last year, the only high school player they took in the first 17 rounds, and he’s shown strong plate discipline so far this year but not enough of anything else to project as more than a utility guy. He does work the count, but I saw some taking just to take, and when he did offer at strikes he didn’t show the contact quality he’ll need now that he’s no longer a shortstop. He did make a strong catch in centerfield and is an above-average runner.

Quinn Priester (Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

• I caught Quinn Priester on the last Saturday in July, before the trade deadline and my vacation, in a start at Bowie where he pitched into the seventh (gasp!) inning. Priester, the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2019, got off to a late start this year due to injury, but looked 100 percent in this outing, sitting 93-95 mph for most of the outing and tapering just a little in his last inning. He showed a four-pitch mix with the curveball plus and the changeup at least flashing above-average, although he did overthrow several of them. He’s extremely online to the plate with modest effort to the delivery and throws everything for strikes. It’s more control than command right now, with no real reason he can’t end up with above-average or better command in time.

• Pittsburgh took right-hander Colin Selby in the 16th round in 2018, out of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and he’s taken a step forward this year in stuff and control, enough to see a future in middle relief. He was 93-96 mph with a sharp 86-88 mph slider that was mostly horizontal and a more vertical slurve that was just below the slider in velocity. It’s straight relief, and he needs to cut his walk rate even further (he’s gone from just under 14 percent last year to 11 percent this year), but he’s got the stuff to miss big-league bats.

• This was my first look this year at Baltimore shortstop prospect Joey Ortiz, who got off to a brutal start his year after his 2021 season ended last June due to a shoulder injury. Ortiz reworked his swing during the pandemic while also getting stronger, and I thought the big boost in his offensive performance in a small sample last year was sustainable, so his awful first half this year was a disappointment. Since July 1, he’s hitting .358/.424/.642 with 11 homers and almost as many unintentional walks (20) as strikeouts (25), while still playing plus defense at short. His swing is still good and explains the power and harder contact, and he did show he could turn on good velocity, although I caught a night when he just hit a bunch of hard groundballs.

• I’ve seen Heston Kjerstad multiple times in the last month, both in Low A and High A, and unfortunately he looks well behind where the Orioles would have hoped their 2020 first-rounder would be. Kjerstad developed myocarditis and missed all of 2021. He was ready to return this spring but tore a hamstring and missed the first two months of the season, so he has lost more than two full years of at-bats, and the rust has been visible. I’ve seen him struggle badly with timing and fail to get to average velocity middle-up in the zone — pitches he should be able to handle. He does still have great bat speed, and he’s not striking out very often, but he’s mistiming enough that the contact quality hasn’t been there since he moved up to High-A Aberdeen.

• I’ve mentioned Orioles infielder Darell Hernaiz before, but he just keeps getting better every time I see him. Baltimore’s fifth-rounder out of an El Paso high school in 2019, the Puerto Rican-born shortstop is a plus runner who has come into gap power and projects as a 35 doubles, 10-15 homers guy as is, although I have a feeling there’s more power to come. He takes good at-bats, destroys lefties and controls the zone well against righties. He’s shown plus range and hands at second base, but probably lacks the range for short; at worst he could be a super-utility guy, but I’m putting him down for everyday duty at second.

(Top photo of Ricky Tiedemann: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports)

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